Tiny Home Rebel: One Man’s Battle With the City of Los Angeles

Tiny Home Rebel: One Man’s Battle with the City of Los Angeles

SBS (2019)

Film Review

This Australian documentary is about Elvis Sommers’ battle with the city of Los Angeles to build free tiny houses on wheels for the city’s homeless.

Sommers, who volunteers his time, has a crowdfunding site to pay for the materials he needs to build tiny houses. In fact, he has a whole lot full of tiny houses the city forced his homeless clients to remove from Skid Row sidewalks and other homeless encampments. Fortunately he is also quite ingenious in finding public land in low traffic industrial areas, where city authorities are unlikely to notice his homeless friends in their tiny homes. Filmmakers follow him as he moves a pregnant homeless woman (who has just had her tarp and all her belongings confiscated by the city) into her new tiny house.

The Los Angeles city council opposes giving homeless people tiny houses to live in because they consider these dwellings a public threat. According to one city council member, tiny houses are dangerous because they might be used for “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” According to the city director of sanitation, the real reason is they make it too difficulty to bulldoze homeless tents and belongings to hose down city sidewalks.

At present, the only location LA homeless can legally set up tents to store their belongings is on Skid Row. Elsewhere city regulations require a tent has to be down between 6 pm and 9 am (unless it’s raining), and it has to be at least ten feet from a driveway.

Skid Row currently has 2,000 homeless residents in tents. Every two weeks, they are given 12 hours notice to move their tents and belongings to allow sanitation workers to hose down the sidewalks. If they fail to move them, city bulldozers scoop up everything they own and take it to the landfill.

Officially LA has 12,000 shelter beds for 47,000 homeless residents.

Sommers finds it ironic that the city spends millions sanitizing sidewalks where homeless live instead of using the funds to provide them with emergency housing.

Living on the Street in Los Angeles

On the Streets – Los Angeles

Los Angeles Times (2016)

Film Review

This is one of the better documentaries I’ve seen on homelessness. Based on a 2016 LA Times survey, it mainly focuses on high functioning homeless people, many of whom hold full time jobs.

According to the survey, in 2016 there were 44,000 homeless people in LA county. The survey mapped their location and whether they were living rough or in tents, camper vans or cars. The number of homeless living in vehicles doubled between 2015 and 2016.

It’s common for women in tents to cluster in “family” groups for security. The filmmakers interview a Skid Row cop who monitors the welfare of homeless people on his beat. He talks about a big increase in rapes, robbery, assaults and sex trafficking – due to criminals who prey on the homeless.

For me, the most interesting part of the film is an interview with a UCLA graduate student who lives in his car and is working with other homeless UCLA students to establish a youth homeless shelter. In the US, roughly 56,000 university students are homeless.

Psychedelics: A Miracle Cure for PTSD?

Soldiers of the Vine

Directed by Charles Shaw (2016)

Film Review

This documentary traces the experience of six US veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who undergo treatment with the psychedelic ayahuasca, owing to their failure to respond to conventional treatment.*

Ex-GIs who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer extremely high rates of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and suicidal depression. They commit suicide at twice the rate of the general population and US prisons, mental hospitals and homeless shelters are full of disabled veterans.

Studies show that psychedelic drugs, such as ayahuasca and ibogaine** are often helpful in treating heroin addiction and alcoholism. Their use in PTSD is still experimental.

In the film the six veterans travel to the Amazon jungle, where ayahasca is viewed as a sacred plant, to undergo a nine day healing ceremony with an indigenous shaman.


*Western medicine has no recognized treatment for PTSD.

**Ibogaine is legal for treating drug addiction in over 190 countries, including Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Russia, China and Ukraine. See Why Are We Sending Vets to Costa Rico (and Canada and Mexico).

Doctoring LA’s Homeless

Street Medicine

Jonny Kahleyn-Dieb and Tomi Hinkannen (2008)

Film Review

Street Medicine is an extremely inspiring documentary about a medical outreach program in Los Angeles Country that sends doctors out to assist uninsured homeless patient whose illnesses prevent them from attended Venice Outpatient Clinic.

The most common medical problems the encounter are TB and other chest infections and severe skin infections and abscesses. Owing to severe mental health cutbacks, many also have mental illnesses.

The clinic receives one-third of its funding from Hollywood celebrities and the rest from federal-state Medicaid funding.